One People

Achdus is Hebrish for “unity”.

Vincent the mover

So today I moved.  Well, Vincent moved me.  I expected the movers to be at my office at 9:00 a.m. and got a call at 7:30.

Dr. . .I am Vincent.  I am outside your office.  I can’t get in.

Vincent, I said 9:00.  You can’t expect a woman who has said she’d be somewhere at 9:00 to be there at 7:30.  That’s not going to happen.

It’s okay, It’s okay.  Don’t worry.  I understand.  I just had many jobs so I thought if I could start I would start.

Yeah, Vincent, I understand.  I’ll be there as soon as I can.

Which wasn’t soon.  I made it there 15 minutes to 9.   And Vincent was there with 2 other movers.  They got to work and had the place cleared out in an hour. We talked as he filled out the countless pages of paperwork that you have to fill out to move sofas and file cabinets.

Vincent, where are you from?  (I thought Israel.  It was an Israeli company)

I pronounce it Vincienze (maybe that’s what he said) and I am from Bulgaria.

Oh, and how did you come to America?

I came through Israel.  I met my wife in Israel.

How do you like moving furniture?

My desk alone is a bear and Vincent is not a huge man.

I am studying finance.  I will not be doing it forever, moving furniture.

But it keeps you quiet, no?

What do you mean?

You’re tired at the end of the day.

Yes, and there is more time for my wife to talk.

You said a mouthful, Vincent.  Thanks so much,


August 30, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Color and Black

Fact is, like most Jews, I come from a family that has some REALLY frum relatives, some PRETTY frum relatives, some FRUM relatives, and all the way down the line, or up the line, depending upon your perspective.  I mean we’re talking colors, really.

Tonight I made it to one of my cousin’s kid’s chasanahs.  My married daughter looked around and said to me, Uh, mom, did you notice, you’re the uh, ONLY one in a color and by the way, it’s hot pink.

Yes, it was a hot pink sweater set.  BUT I WORE A BLACK SKIRT!  COME ON!

Anyway, I looked around, too, and there was another woman in a color.  I recognized her right off as REALLY FRUM and in PURPLE.  Chaval.  (oy vey)

I walked up to her after the chupah and thanked her for doing that, wearing purple.  She said, What is this, a funeral?  I NEVER wear black.  WHY WOULD I WEAR BLACK TO A CHASANAH?

My feelings exactly.

hoping things change one day,


August 23, 2007 Posted by | black | 1 Comment

This is what happens when you love people

I think I told you that I’m moving my office.  I’m in a sort of artsy building with artisans of different types, and then there’s me, your working stiff white collar professional.  Not that I’m not arty in my way, but I’m not talented like them.

Still, something about some people, you simply take to them right away.  Religion has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with ANYTHING.

So I’ve been in the artsy building about 10 years and a new artist moved in with a marvelous following.  She has a school.  She’s successful.  She’s lovely and she’s french.  She has a french name, even.

Anyway, she moved in and her school is right across from my office, virtually.  And one day I was locking up, leaving for a vacation and I dropped by her place.  She was alone and I thought, well, I’ll ask her tell her to keep an eye on my place.  I’d been burgled once.  She asked where I was going and I told her, and she said her husband commuted to work there.

It’s a REAL commute, I’ll tell you that.  But she seemed okay with it and proud of him for what he did.

Then a couple of months later I stopped by to say hello, tell her I was going again, but this time, after she said “Come in,” as soon as I looked as  she dried her face.  Her eyes were red.

So, me, being a woman who loves people, didn’t hesitate, threw my arms around her.  She’s not a patient so I can do that.  Can’t do that with patients.  Laws, you know.

Then she told me he wanted out of the marriage.

And I felt just terrible.

And last week I knocked on her door and sure enough, she was sad, and I felt bad again, and gave her the hug.  Then I said, “I’m leaving this place, you know, August 28. . .”

“I know,” she got out.  “We have to get together.”

“Right,” I said.

Without dropping a beat she replied, “My place or yours?”

loving them all no matt,


August 19, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Difference between Catholic and Jewish

It’s really WASP. That’s the difference. According to my patient, Italian (Cath father, WASP mother) who is married to a Yid, the real same-ies are the Italians and the Jews. I missed this on the Sopranios, but have only tuned in on the cable reruns so maybe it’ll come up.

How so? How are we alike? He says that Italian Catholic mother guilt is rivaled ONLY by Jewish mother guilt. Did you know this? And I thought the similarities had to do with being Mediterranean.

We all talk with our hands. Greeks do, too.

My patient, naturally, is conflicted about visiting his mom (he just can’t). What Jew hasn’t had to deal with this issue? And of course, she really doesn’t care, he tells me, being a WASP. He just thinks she should because he’s got so much Italian in him.

I love my job.

I don’t even know why I’m bringing this up. As an Orthodox Jewish blogger who thinks INCLUSION as opposed to EXCLUSION the intermarriage thing is should be less hard for me.

But I think of marriage as the place a Jew learns to be a BETTER Jew. How can marriage to someone who isn’t Jewish make you a better Jew?

So even though I think INCLUSION,

I am not giving Noah Feldman the nod, not saying he had the right to break his mother’s heart by marrying out of the tribe. Oh, let’s go there.

His tiresome anti-Orthodox piece (“Orthodox Paradox,” July 22 edition of the Times’ Magazine) didn’t even touch on the mother thing, or Jewish guilt. He never tells us how he broke her heart or how his choice affected his immediate family. Instead he rants about how his alma mater’s newsletter cut the two of them (his fiance and himself) out of a picture taken at a high school reunion. Obviously, because of her not Jewishness and whatever that means.

He took his credentials (law professor at Harvard) and his pen and he lied in a piece worthy of the Enquirer, not a major hard news publication, about something that didn’t happen.

Or did it? Who do I believe here?

Oh, it doesn’t matter. He didn’t worry much about hurting anyone with that all-about-me stuff whether it was true or not. Not much of a worrier, apparently, forget journalistic credulity. Am I being unfair? I ask michilah (forgiveness) Mr. Feldman if indeed you have made all amends with family, and indeed you spoke the truth, and indeed your piece is there to teach us all to be nicer.

I’m all for nicer.

I wonder, however, if the Jewish friends, the people he saw at that reunion (10 years ago) are as confused or more as I am. They undoubtedly found things to talk about with Mr. Feldman and his fiance’. They had to have shared stories, history, a few laughs. Forget those relationships now.

You know what I mean, though, right? You can have a conversation with people who aren’t Jewish and find things in common, things to talk about. It’s not Jewish to hate others. It’s that self-hating stuff that really has to go.

In commonly yours,


August 16, 2007 Posted by | Catholic, Jewish guilt, Noah Feldman, Orthodox Paradox, self-hating Jew, WASP | Leave a comment

Jews and Drinking

So there we are at dinner on a Thursday night with some old friends who aren’t Jewish, although there’s a Jewish father out there from a first marriage, which makes their 25 year old daughter who is with us “at least half Jewish. ” Of course the most affiliated half.

The guys order a beer and the women a glass of wine each and it’s a very nice evening. The youngest among us brings up a Shabbas synagogue service she’s attended a few weeks ago at an Orthodox shul.

“Wow, do they drink,” she says.

Uh yeah. She continues. “They don’t drink nearly as much at the Conservative synagogues I’ve been to. I’ve never even seen anything except maybe a bottle of Manishevitz Concord at a kiddish.”

My S-O explains to her that this is how wonderful the Jewish people are. The Orthodox don’t have to drive, so of course they can drink. But if you have to drive, like our sisters and brothers who aren’t Orthodox have to do to get to shul, then of course you can’t.

And they say we have no fun.  I love ’em all.

not exactly drunkenly yours,


August 10, 2007 Posted by | drinking | 1 Comment

Asking People for Money When They’re Praying

I’m sure that this doesn’t happen in Conservative synagogues, or Reform or any other kind of synagogue than an Orthodox synagogue.  But giving charity is a big mitzvah (commandment) so it’s not unusual for a person who needs money to ask a person who keeps mitzvahs for charity.

If you’ve ever been to the kotel in Israel then you know what I’m talking about here.

The strange thing, of course, is that interrupting someone’s prayers, some of which could be that person’s supplication for money,  seems rude.

a) How can anyone interrupt a conversation with G-d?

b) Why can’t it wait a couple of minutes?

I understand that praying the morning prayers in a synagogue can cost $7.00 minimum a day!  Fine, if you have that kind of pocket change.

But that’s not the issue, of course.  Maybe during derech eretz month (see other posts), which is in ELUL, coming right up, people can watch this issue.

Humbly yours,


August 8, 2007 Posted by | charity, chesed, kotel, mitzvah | 3 Comments

Eating on the Bus

I don’t want to brag, but I consider my S-O a modern day version of a good man, maybe even a holy man, but for sure good. He really does extend himself to others (he’s in a profession that lends itself to that, medicine) and doesn’t generally say no to people in need.

In fact, he’s up before the sun, prays, learns, the whole nine yards AND works. No big deal, it’s what we’re here to do most people would say, and seriously, I’m not bragging as much as to introduce the story.

So that our one car would be available if anyone needed it yesterday (we woke up to storms) he took the bus to work, about a 15 mile bus ride. I dutifully packed him breakfast. He sat on the bus eating his sandwich. There is no time between patients for him to stop and eat lunch. He’s a 2 meal a day person, breakfast and late dinner.

He’s a very neat eater and relatively thin.

Someone came up to him and said, “You know it’s against the rules to eat on the bus. You can’t eat on the bus.”

I’m not sure how the conversation went from there, but he came home and it was the first thing he told me. Facetiously he said, “Of the greater evils out there, make sure you warn people about those of us who eat on the bus.”

So the questions for me are

Should he have given the spoiler the benefit of the doubt some how?

Was the spoiler really putting him down?

Should a person musar (rhymes with goose-er, means to correct) another person on such rules?

Should the doc have stopped eating?

I’m sure these are all related to derech eretz (common decency, manners, see other posts. To me, ifthere’s a chance you’ll insult someone saying what you’re about to say, probably it’s best to keep the mouth shut.

Remember: Elul is derech eretz month. EVERY Jew has to work on this, not just those who can pronounce derech eretz. Maybe especially those who can pronounce derech eretz.

Respectfully your,


August 8, 2007 Posted by | Derech Eretz Month, lashon harah | Leave a comment

Judging how people dress

I’ve mentioned before that my mother-in-law has this idea. All Jews, especially Orthodox Jews, should celebrate Derech Eretz Month.

Derech eretz (rhymes loosely with “where-deck”/ “air-Mets”) literally means “way of the land,” but figuratively it’s a fusion of “common decency” and “way of life” or occupation. It’s Hebrew, FYO.

When my m-i-l talks about it she’s usually talking about common decency, good old fashioned manners, not to be confused with Family Values, but probably it is a family value, so if you’re a Bush Republican you’re familiar with it..

M-i-L was at a Friday night dinner last week and a guest (Orthodox) brought up how some people come to the synagogue dressed inappropriately. Sometimes women wear short sleeves, sometimes they even wear a man’s kippah over their hair, and worse, of course, they sometimes wear tight and revealing.

I know. You want to know, Where is this shul? I want to go there!

You have to remember that the women in this shul are separated from the men during prayer and afterwards, during the kiddish, when people socialize, well-trained Orthodox men who don’t want to be turned on by such a sight so they don’t look.

There have been concerted efforts to separate the women from the men during kiddish, but they haven’t worked. I sure can’t figure out why.

Anyway, my m-i-l was upset that the people she was eating with could be so incredibly judgmental. They thought, obviously, that they were among friends and could say what they wanted and not upset anyone. But I’ll bet my m-i-l is STILL upset, many weeks later. And, by the way, she let them have it at the time.

“There’s nothing more important, no greater issue, no greater threat to the Jewish people,” she asked, “than how people dress when they come in earnest to PRAY? How can you know what’s in their hearts when they pray? Why does this bother you?!?!”

One of the guests apologized and thanked her for giving her something to think about.

Complaining about others, I imagine, shows a derech eretz deficiency, especially if you’re not sure how well it will go over. But maybe even if you are.

Remember the Hebrew month of Elul IS Derech Eretz Month. Tell everyone to watch their manners and tell everyone else to do the same. It really is one thing that all Jews should be able to agree upon.

Appreciatively yours,


August 8, 2007 Posted by | Derech Eretz Month, modest dress, pray | Leave a comment

N’ah Alitalia

I just hate it when people don’t bend over backwards to help older people.  I must be getting older.

We took a trip to the Holy Land a couple of weeks ago.  My m-i-l, the one who is always nagging about derech eretz (manners, see previous posts) did not like our dates on EL AL and took the Italian airline.

“I’ll try it,” she said.  She likes to try new things.

Our flight was unremarkable but we had a great time those first few days, settled into an apartment in Bakaa and rented a car, tooled around the country to our old stomping grounds.

M-i-l caught up with us in Petach Tikva where my s-i-l and her considerable (K”H) sized fam live.  “I had a simply TERRIBLE flight,” she exclaimed in her most British of British accents.

Why so bad?

“Oh, you would think I had to pay extra for water.  WATER.  I approached the galley. CLOSED.  I asked for a blanket.  We have no blankets.  Well, we’re short on blankets.  A pillow?  I might as well have asked for silver or gold.”

Sorry, mom.

“Oh.  And breakfast.  Because I ordered a kosher meal, they gave me salami.  SALAMI for breakfast.”


She got over it.

A few days later I remembered that a cousin of mine had just moved to Catamon, so I visited him, too, and he had an even better story about Alitalia.

“We were going to Rome and had ordered a kosher meal.  They said they didn’t have one.  We argued, but no meal.  After we landed we were arrested for harassing the flight crew.  If I hadn’t been EXTREMELY solicitous, I’d be in jail today.”

Would you say it’s anti-Semitism?  I have no idea, honestly.  But I can tell you something for sure.  No water, no Torah, no derech eretz, and for me, no, no, no Alitalia.

Unapologetically yours,


August 8, 2007 Posted by | Alitalia, derech eretz, EL AL | 1 Comment

Derech Eretz and the Parking Garage

A kabala is a receipt.  My S-O, Mordechai (we’re married over 30 years) and I were in an Israeli parking garage at a hotel the other day.  We arrived before Shabbas and had quite a few packages and suitcases. 

We also had taken ourselves on a fantastic tour of Bet Guvrin, the huge bell shaped caves above ground, and the naturally air-conditioned caverns under-ground.  It was a hundred degrees in the shade.  But the caves were nice.

 More drama on that another time, also about derech eretz.  I’ve explained elsewhere the meaning of Derech Eretz, but basically, for our purposes, it means common decency.  Manners

Anyway,  it was hot.  A really, really hot day.  When we visit Israel the weather’s always weird.  It’s like G-d telling us, Don’t come to Israel for the weather.

Finally back at the hotel (it was a simcha), M. parked the car and I checked in.  He never got a receipt at the parking garage.  The attendant didn’t give him one, and he didn’t know he needed it to get out.

After Shabbat we wanted to go out to get something called hot chocolate cake.  It’s apparently amazing at that bakery behind the gas station in Bakaa (Jerusalem).  That is an amazing bakery, it’s true.

But the parking attendant wouldn’t let us out without the receipt from the day before.  Big argument, big drama.  In the end, the guy told me, in rapid fire Hebrew, that if we wanted to be thieves, so be it.

No one has ever called us thieves before.  We may not be perfect, but that’s not an adjective I’d use to describe us.

 I gave him a look to kill, one of those, Unbelievable Chutzpah looks, shaking my head, as if to say, You should be ashamed of yourself.   He literally stepped back.  I’m not so young. My look said, How could you call us that?  His face told me that he knew he’d over-stepped.

Remember, Elul is Derech Eretz month.  Pass it on, please.  Tell everyone that every Jew has to be nice.  All the time.  It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

 Appreciatively yours,




August 1, 2007 Posted by | derech eretz, Derech Eretz Month, Elul, midot | Leave a comment